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Hurricane Katrina Case study

Hurricane Katrina is the costliest natural disaster in the history of the

United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth
strongest overall but what made it deadly were where it hit and the
physical and human geography of that region. . At least 1,836 people died
in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods and total property
damage was estimated at $81 billion.


Hurricane Katrina began as a very low pressure weather system,

which strengthened to become a tropical storm and eventually a
hurricane as it moved west and neared the Florida coast on the
evening of 25 August 2005
After crossing southern Florida - where it left some 100,000 homes
without power - it strengthened further before veering inland
towards Louisiana, eventually making landfall at Grand Isle,
approximately 90km south of New Orleans, at 10am local time on
29 August.
At this point, Katrina's sustained wind speed was approximately 200
km/h. The storm passed directly through New Orleans, destroying
many lighter buildings and causing extensive damage to others.
Hurricane force winds were recorded along a 200km stretch of
coastline, with scenes of similar destruction and flooding in
Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Storm surges from the sea
caused flooding several kilometers inland in some places.

Finally, the levees, both earthen and floodwalls, were only ever
designed to cope with a category 3 storm, not enough to cope with
the strength of the storm surge of Katrina, a category 5 storm. A
simulation exercise one year before the storm revealed this, but was
not acted upon.

Red dots show the location

of deaths.
Blue arrows show the
where the levees and
floodwalls broke

New Orleans Background

New Orleans has always been vulnerable to flooding; it sits by Lake

Pontchartrain and the Mississippi river for a start.
The wetlands of the Mississippi delta that used to protect New
Orleans have decreased in size because they have been drained
and because they are starved of sediment because the Mississippi
river is so heavily embanked against flooding it stops erosion
upstream, which prevents deposition downstream.
New Orleans is also sinking! The drained soft sediments it is built
upon have compacted under the weight of the buildings, and the
draining of water that supported the structure of the soil has also
had an impact.


It cost $105 billion for repairs and reconstruction in the region; this
didnt include potential interruption of the oil supply, destruction of
the Gulf Coast's highway infrastructure, and exports of products
such as grain.
Katrina damaged or destroyed 30 oil platforms and caused the
closure of nine refineries
1.3 million acres (5,300 km2) of forest lands were destroyed costing
about $5 billion
Before the hurricane, the region supported approximately one
million non-farm jobs, with 600,000 of them in New Orleans.
It is estimated that the total economic impact in Louisiana and
Mississippi may exceed $150 billion


Katrina redistributed over one million people from the central Gulf
coast elsewhere across the United States. For example, Houston,
Texas, had an increase of 35,000 people
By late January 2006, about 200,000 people were once again living
in New Orleans, less than half of the pre-storm population.
By July 1, 2006, when new population estimates were calculated by
the U.S. Census Bureau, the state of Louisiana showed a population
decline of 219,563, or 4.87%
Many people were totally traumatised
Racial tensions were exposed and intensified, as many of the
victims were black African Americans


The storm surge caused substantial beach erosion, in some cases

completely devastating coastal areas. In Dauphin Island,
approximately 90 miles (150 km) to the east of the point where the
hurricane made landfall, the sand that comprised the barrier island
was transported across the island into the Mississippi Sound,
pushing the island towards land
The US Geological Survey has estimated 217 square miles
(560 km2) of land was transformed to water by the hurricanes
Katrina and Rita
The lands that were lost were breeding grounds for marine
mammals, brown pelicans, turtles, and fish
The damage from Katrina forced the closure of 16 National Wildlife
The storm caused oil spills from 44 facilities throughout
southeastern Louisiana, which resulted in over 7 million U.S. gallons
(26 million L) of oil being leaked.

3 Main reasons why Katrinas impact was so high:

1. Severity of the event Category 5 storm but weakened to category
3 before it hit land.
2. Level of economic development: Affected more economically
developed areas, which is why the economic impact was high.
3. Vulnerability of the affected population Katrina hit poorer areas of
New Orleans, people from this region were unable toe evacuate and
infrastructure was easily damaged. The ill were badly affected as
hospitals flooded and equipment failed.


The National Hurricane predicted the storm Centre and they gave a
very accurate plot of the Hurricanes track and expected landfall, not
far from New Orleans. This allowed for a coordinated EVACUATION
but many people were left behind and many refused to move. This
warning also allowed some disaster recovery response to Katrina
began before the storm, with Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) preparations that ranged from logistical supply
deployments to a mortuary team with refrigerated trucks.
Of the 60,000 people stranded in New Orleans, the Coast Guard
rescued more than 33,500. The United States also had a military onscene response on Sunday, August 28. Approximately 58,000
National Guard personnel were activated to deal with the storm's
aftermath, with troops coming from all 50 states.
Early in September, Congress authorized a total of $62.3 billion in
aid for victims. FEMA provided housing assistance to more than
700,000 applicantsfamilies and individuals. However only 1 fifth of
housing was granted. To provide for additional housing, FEMA has
also paid for the hotel costs of 12,000 individuals and families
displaced by Katrina.
Law enforcement and public safety agencies responded with
manpower and equipment from as far away as California, New York,
and Texas. Local Louisiana authorities welcomed this response, as

their staff were either becoming fatigued, stretched too thin, or

even quitting from the job.
Two weeks after the storm, more than half of the states were
involved in providing shelter for evacuees. By four weeks after the
storm, evacuees had been registered in all 50 states and in
18,700 zip codeshalf of the nation's residential postal zones.

Reducing the impacts of extreme weather

events with technology

Better-coordinated disaster response - GIS is used to analyse

different sets of geographical data. This can be used to highlight
densely populated areas that are most at risk from an extreme
weather event, so search and rescue teams can be sent to these
areas and the right area can be evacuated.
More accurate weather forecasts As computers and radars get
more powerful, forecasts of weather become more accurate and
more detailed. This means earlier warnings can be given, so people
have more time to protect their property or evacuate which reduces
damage and loss of life.
Better communication portable cellphone towers and
communications support trucks with satellite uplink.